I have not written a post in a year. Wow. So much has happened this past year that, as a good friend put it, I’ve been living life, just not writing about it. I’ve learned much, and feel better than I have ever felt. Digging down deep into who I really am, and being willing to be authentic has been the hardest thing I have ever done. It also turns out to be the easiest. The hard part is fighting against it, of doing what I thought I “should” do instead of what my instincts tell me to do; of being what I thought I “should” be instead of who I really am.
So who am I really? Well, I’m a writer and a teacher and an athlete and a cat lover and an artist and a woman and a cyclist and a… but those are labels. The realization of my core being came from a conversation I had with an Uber driver last night.
Many, many years ago, I’d said that someday I want to be rich enough to pay someone to drive me around. When I say I don’t like to drive, I mean it. I haven’t liked to drive ever since I learned how to do it. No clue where this dislike comes from since everyone else in my family loves to drive. Of course, they all like fresh tomatoes, melon, and carrots, none of which I can stand. If my face wasn’t a photocopy of my paternal grandfather’s, I’d be getting a DNA test.
I’m not a bad driver; I don’t careen wildly down the street, leaving a trail of accidents behind me. I just do not want a car, have never found them fascinating, and am more than happy to spend my money on traveling instead.
So I’ve been resourceful in finding other ways to get around. My bicycle takes me most places I want to go and, interestingly, I feel safer cycling the streets than driving them. I walk a lot places, and know how to read a bus schedule. I always thought I’d be great on Amazing Race because I can figure out a bus, subway, and train schedule like nobody’s business.
One day, as I was riding the bus, it hit me that I was, indeed, paying someone to drive me around. A friend said that instead of saying I take the bus, I could say I belong to a cooperative chauffer service. I liked that.
Believe it or not, there are a few drawbacks to taking the bus. They don’t always go where I want to go. Sometimes it takes a long time and a transfer or two to get to there. Buses can run late or not at all. They can be crowded. Sometimes other riders are scary. I am unwilling to take the bus at night. Instead, I would take a cab but they can be pretty expensive. That meant I spent a lot of evenings at home.
Until I found Uber.
It’s a better cooperative chauffer service. I like it more.
To my considerable surprise, I’ve had the most fascinating conversations with Uber drivers. The surprise isn’t that they having interesting and enlightening things to say. The surprise is that I’m willingly and actively initiating talking with them. I never do that with cab drivers. Most of them try to talk to me, because 99.99% of their fares like chit chat. The chit chat trails off when they realize all I want to do is look out the window.
But it’s different with Uber drivers. I think it’s because they wait to see if I want to talk, instead of automatically sending a barrage of words at me, causing a “shields up” situation. So I find myself asking them questions like why they like driving for Uber. Every single driver has said the freedom of setting his or her own schedule, and making more money than at any other job he or she had. I resonate with this; the need for freedom is why I’ve been an independent contractor for 25 years.
From there, the conversation just blooms. In a 10 or 15 minute ride, I’ve talked with Uber drivers about needing to do art because it feeds the soul, how sometimes we have to do things more than once to be REALLY SURE we don’t want to do them ever again, that taking a risk and following instincts can prove to be so much more secure than seemingly secure mainstream jobs and ways of life.
Tonight, Uber driver Robert drove me home from El Con Mall. We talked about the movie I just saw, which had a feel-good ending. I said I like sports movies because of the triumphing against all odds. In fact, I love boxing movies, except for the actual boxing. He talked about boxers having anger that gives them the edge to throw punches. He grew up in a tough Philadelphia neighborhood, and needed to have that edge himself to survive, even though he was scared and insecure inside. By the time we got to my door, we discovered we both have a distaste for superficial chatter and that we’d rather spend five minutes having a real conversation than an hour of small talk. He termed this being a truth seeker and a searcher.
Truth seeker and searcher. I like that most of all.